Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The power of Eeyore

There are many things wrong with the modern world. Fracking, snacking, 50 Shades of Grey, binge drinking, drones, abattoirs, nose jobs, the private car, Gardeners' Question time... I could go on. But in spite of this we are meant to conduct ourselves like a bunch of wilful, myopic Pollyannas. Thinking positive is - allegedly - a central requirement in the post-post modernist age.

Why? Is this a post-post modernist joke, referencing the appalling suffering in the last century, now hilariously summed up in faux WWII memorabilia telling us to Keep Calm and (insert joyless witticism here)? I dunno. All I can say, on a Tuesday, sipping my Earl Grey and feeling as far removed from Calm as it is possible to be, is that we are overlooking the power of negative thinking. The power, in short, of Eeyore.

It's almost exactly ten years since my dad died, and he was a loyal Eeyore fan. Not least because he saw a resemblance between Eeyore and me, his oldest, speccy daughter. As adolescence descended, like a black cloud of Knowingness, I began to look in the mirror more. But not in a good way. I would stare, eyeball-to-eyeball, at this unbelievably asymmetrical human which was housing my beautiful soul.

'Oh God,' I would groan. 'Oh God, it's horrible.' I would hog the hall mirror for hours on end, wallowing in negative narcissism.

And Eeyore, as all Winnie-the-Pooh fans will know, has a similar experience. He stares mournfully into the river, then crosses over with some difficulty, and then stares at his watery reflection again. 'As I thought,' he says eventually. 'No better on this side.' My dad enjoyed making this comparison. Eeyore, basically, c'est moi.

So far, so gloomy. But this is not the end of the story. Gloom is Good. Introspection is Cool. I am currently reading a brilliant book called Quiet in which the author, Susan Cain, sets out the case for introversion, and suggests that the modern world is run by reckless, optimistic extroverts.We are neglecting, suggests Cain, the valuable perspective of thoughtful introverts. What's more, according to a serious-sounding journal called Psychology and Aging, cautious, shy people live longer and have better health.

Writers are by nature pretty introspective, I would say. We might pretend otherwise, bouncing around like Tigger when this seems to be necessary. But there is an Eeyore inside most of us, staring sadly into the mirror, resigned to the awful truth.